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How Bentley celebrated 100 years of motoring heritage


By Awards Analyst, writer

March 5, 2021 | 8 min read

Iris won ‘Best Automotive or Transport Campaign’ with its activation for Bentley Motors' 100th anniversary celebrations. Here the team reveals the challenges involved in creating a luxury car experience that was both inclusive and unforgettable. This was a winning entry at The Drum Awards for Marketing.

The challenge

In 1919, Walter Owen Bentley’s genius kick-started the iconic brand. He set out to make ‘a fast car, a good car, the best in its class.’ From this clear-sighted vision he created an extraordinary company that attracted visionaries, heroes of motorsport, adventurers, and entrepreneurs from around the world.

Although the journey started 100 years ago, it continues today in the spirit it began. Bentley is constantly exploring innovative materials and new engineering ideas, discovering new and more effective ways to move forward. It is continuously looking for better: asking ‘what if?’ and thinking about how the brand's heritage links its past, present and future owners, always driving toward the extraordinary.

Fast forward 100 years to 2019: the modern Bentley brand is not without its challenges.

With increased competition in the ultra-luxury space Bentley is still striving to reach modern consumers. This demanded a unique and energetic approach to capture the attention of fans, the media and owners and celebrate Bentley’s 100th anniversary with style.

Bentley at Monterey Car Week 1.

The strategy

Competing against larger luxury brands, the team created programs that show what the modern Bentley brand represents showing the level of thought, design, and craftsmanship present in every vehicle needed to be addressed.

The centenary story needed to be relevant for all audiences, rich in the brand’s 100 years of stories, but also inspirational and future-facing.

This crystallised in a yearlong calendar of events that not only celebrated 100 years but also challenged preconceptions of the modern Bentley brand in the US.

The activation

Monterey Car Week (MCW) saw the pinnacle of Bentley’s North American centenary celebrations with a week-long slate of events that looked to truly own the conversation at this highlight event of the luxury car calendar.

As the hub for all of Bentley’s presence during MCW, Iris built the Home of Bentley, a brand experience with a difference - no more closed doors or VIP lists. Unlike every other luxury car brand at MCW this year, Bentley welcomed one and all.

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The Home of Bentley provided the perfect venue for customers and media, together with friends and family, to enjoy signature Bentley hospitality, dive deeper into the craftsmanship and technology stories of the extraordinary vehicles and configure their next Bentley.

It should come as no surprise that MCW is a crowded space with manufacturers clamouring for the attention of wealthy customers, enthusiasts and the media.

For Bentley’s 100th anniversary, the team sought to make a statement that would truly be remembered in that hectic environment. In addition to the extraordinary stable of vehicles, superior hospitality and luxury boutique, they chose to open up the Bentley brand to the people and celebrate with an extraordinary, sculptural space known as The Factory.

Imagined with Formations Studio, they created a bespoke structure inspired by the Bentley design language to provide a beautifully crafted space worthy of the experience guests would discover within. 100 fins (a nod to Bentley’s 100 years) accelerated around the perimeter of the structure, while retaining an open-air design that not only allowed the installation to be grounded in its surroundings, but also served as a metaphor for the inviting nature of the modern Bentley brand.

During its residency in Monterey, the Factory welcomed every guest as an apprentice and provided an opportunity to learn first-hand about the craftsmanship found in every Bentley vehicle. Guided by the Bentley design team from Crewe, each guest received a hands-on experience of every aspect of the vehicle design process, from sketching to color, trim and woodwork – all crafted to authentically emulate the Factory back home.

The results

The result was a renewed understanding of the consideration, skill and craft present in each extraordinary Bentley vehicle and a stunning architectural gesture that marries Bentley’s innovation and craft in unique harmony for all to enjoy.

Bentley at Monterey Car Week 2.

Other highlights included:

  • A featured parade lap at Sonoma Raceway let owners and fans experience an incredible collection of the brand vehicles from 1919 to now. 100 years lapped the prestigious track with the Bentley DNA visible for all to see, flowing from 1920s blowers and 1950s Grand Tourers cruising with the current Bentley line-up.

  • The North American debut of the EXP100GT at The Quail Gathering with a press launch of the EXP100GT, stealing the show with this unique concept car the explores what grand touring and luxury could look like in 2035.

  • An epic Centenary Signature Party hosted at the Beach and Tennis Club at Pebble Beach. We created a celebration of the past 100 years and engaged our 400 partygoers to a presentation of the New Flying Spur

  • The streets of Manhattan came to life as 100 Bentley vehicles descended into the city to create a friendly invasion of Manhattan, they joined the Bentley EXP 100GT concept. Sharing this extraordinary concept car helped us set the stage for the future of luxury.

  • Iris created a waterfront Centenary Concours event at Brookfield Place where owners of vintage Bentley vehicles joined the current line-up for a daytime event in Lower Manhattan.

  • An epic Centenary Party hosted at the Conrad Hotel in lower Manhattan capping off a year of worthy celebrations for the Bentley marque.

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for Marketing in 2020. To find out which competitions in The Drum Awards are currently open for entries, click here.

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Bentley Motors Limited is a British manufacturer and marketer of luxury cars and SUVs—and a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG since 1998. Headquartered in Crewe, England,...

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